If you are seeking to discover American Civil War sites and want to find the best places to view American Civil War history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.
We’ve compiled an interesting list of Civil War sites and you can find some fantastic places to see on your travels. Once you’ve explored the list of American Civil War sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring American Civil War sites.
Our database of US Civil War historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other American Civil War sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.
Alcatraz Island in San Francisco was a military base and housed Confederate prisoners during the Civil War.
Alcatraz Island was the site of a notoriously harsh prison based off the coast of San Francisco, California, this isolated position earning it the name of “The Rock”. However, prior to becoming a prison, Alcatraz Island had a long history as a military base.
Initially discovered by a Spanish explorer in 1775, Alcatraz Island was first used by the US military in 1853, when it established a base there, transforming it into Fortress Alcatraz. This heavily fortified structure was completed in 1859.
In the course of the American Civil War, the defences of Alcatraz Island were a Union stronghold used to ward off the Confederates. It was also at this time that Alcatraz was first used as a prison, to house Confederate prisoners of war. This military prison continued to expand and was used throughout the late nineteenth century to hold, amongst others, Native American prisoners and those from the Spanish-American War. Over the years, the army kept building more prison sites on Alcatraz Island to hold the increasing number of inmates.
Alcatraz Island’s role as a site of imprisonment was cemented in August 1934. The US government had bought the site the year before and decided to use it as a federal prison, a function it would serve for twenty-nine years.
During this time, Alcatraz held some of the US’s most infamous criminals, including the gangsters Al Capone, Robert Stroud and George Kelly. Many inmates attempted to escape Alcatraz Island and, although no prisoners have “officially” escaped, one of the fourteen recorded attempts resulted in the disappearance of the escapees, Frank Morris and Clarence and John Anglin. Presumed drowned, their bodies have never been recovered.
Alcatraz Island is today managed by the National Parks Service and offers tours of the old prison. An eerie yet fascinating journey into the workings of this famous site, visitors to Alcatraz Island can make use of audio guides which chronicle its history (45 minutes). The visit usually lasts 2-3 hours. This site features as one of our Top 10 tourist Attractions in the United States.
Andersonville Prison in Georgia is a National Historic Site dedicated to all American prisoners of war.
Andersonville Prison, also known as Camp Sumter, in Georgia was a military prison established by the Confederates in February 1864, during the American Civil War. In fact, Andersonville was one of the largest of such prisons and, by April 1865, had held over 45,000 Union prisoners of war or ‘POW’s’.
Over its fourteen months of existence under Confederate control, around 13,000 Union POW’s died at Andersonville Prison. This was mostly due to the dire conditions at the institution which led to malnutrition and disease. These soldiers were buried at Andersonville National Cemetery.
Today, Andersonville Prison, together with the National Prisoner of War Museum and the Andersonville National Cemetery form a Nation Historic Site. In addition to exploring the prison itself, visitors can learn about the role of American POW’s in numerous different conflicts and view exhibits detailing their sacrifice.
The Andersonville Prison site also includes the cemetery, which is now a National Cemetery and is still active today as a burial place for war veterans.
One of the most sombre Civil War sites, Antietam Battlefield saw the single bloodiest day’s battle in American history.
Antietam Battlefield was where, on 17 September 1862, General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia met Major General George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac in what became the most brutal battle of the American Civil War. In fact, the Battle of Antietam remains the USA’s bloodiest single day of battle to date.
Part of the Maryland Campaign and the Confederate Army’s first incursion into the North, the Battle at Antietam raged for twelve hours and ended with a Confederate withdrawal, though only after a long, inconclusive, mutually destructive day's fighting. The total cost to both sides was estimated to be upwards of 23,000 casualties.
However, although not a conclusive victory for the Union, it did provide enough political cover to allow President Lincoln to move forward with his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Antietam Battlefield National Park commemorates this battle and is a goldmine of information about the War. With so many activities and tours, one could spend days there. However, those with limited time can visit the Antietam Battlefield visitors centre to see their exhibits, enjoy a battlefield talk by one of the Park Rangers or embark on an 8½ mile self guided tour of the Antietam Battlefield by car, bicycle or on foot.
The Antietam Battlefield tour has eleven stops and audio/CD guides are available at the park’s bookstore. There are also audiovisual experiences, one of which is introductory and runs for half an hour and the second an award-winning hour long recreation of the battle.
Appomattox was the village where General Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865, ending the American Civil War.
It was in Appomattox, a village in Virginia, that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant on 9 April 1865, marking the end of the American Civil War. The meeting took place at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean and lasted approximately an hour and a half.
Appomattox County Court National Park now offers visitors a myriad of experiences and exhibits relating to the Confederate surrender. You can visit the Mclean House where the surrender took place as well as the Appomattox County Court Visitors Centre, which houses a number of exhibits relating to the event.
Visitors can also gain an understanding of the final battles of the Civil War by visiting the Appomattox Station and Court House. Living history experiences are conducted throughout the summer months and occasionally in the spring and winter, with actors recreating the famous surrender. You should allow at least three hours for your visit.
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is an iconic burial site and a national monument.
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is both a military burial site and an iconic monument to fallen soldiers. Initially, the site of Arlington Cemetery began as a house – Arlington House – built in memory of President George Washington. The house, which still stands today, then became the property of Mary and Robert E. Lee.
During the American Civil War, Lee was asked to be a Union leader but refused, waiting to see how Virginia would side. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Lee became a commander of the Confederate army and fled from Arlington House shortly before the Union crossed the Potomac River and took the land around Washington. Eventually captured, Arlington House would become a Union army base.
In January 1864, the government legally purchased Arlington House and, later that year, desperately in need of space to bury the increasing number of war casualties, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs designated Arlington a national cemetery – a function for which it had unofficially already been used. By the end of the conflict in 1865, Arlington housed the graves of over 5,000 soldiers.
Over the years, Arlington National Cemetery has come to represent a memorial to all US soldiers who have died for their country and is still an active cemetery. In fact, there are approximately 300,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery, neatly aligned and each with a white headstone.
With its status as a nationally heritage site, Arlington National Cemetery has also formed the location of numerous monuments. Amongst these are The Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre, where memorials and funerals are held, the United States Marine Corps Memorial, an iconic statue depicting soldiers raising the American flag and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Arlington National Cemetery is also the home of The Tomb of the Unknowns, a burial place for one unidentified soldier from each of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. There was a soldier from the Vietnam War, but he was later identified and moved.
Many famous Americans are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, from military heroes to astronauts and leaders such as President John F Kennedy. Those visiting Arlington National Cemetery can start at the visitor centre, where there are guide books, maps and exhibits. Arlington House itself is also open to the public, with a museum and guides chronicling this building’s unique history.
The Battle of Averasborough was part of the Carolinas Campaign during the American Civil War.
Averasboro Battlefield was the site of The Battle of Averasborough, part of the Carolinas Campaign during the American Civil War.
The Battle of Averasborough took place on 15 and 16 March 1865. Part of the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War, the Battle of Averasborough was fought between the Unionist Army of Georgia led by Major General Henry W. Slocum and a Confederate army led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee. Hardee’s mission was to delay Slocum’s troops to allow General Joseph E. Johnston to amass troops at nearby Bentonville.
There is debate as to whether Hardee succeeded in delaying the Union army for as long as he required. Overall, the Battle of Averasborough resulted in over a thousand casualties, with 682 on the Confederate side and around five hundred Unionists.
Today, visitors can see the battlefield and a related museum commemorating the Battle of Averasborough.
Brice’s Crossroads Battlefield was the site of a Confederate victory on 10 June 1864.
On 10 June 1864, Brice's Crossroads Battlefield in Mississippi was the site of a clash between 4,787 Confederate troops led by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and 8,100 Union soldiers commanded by Brigadier General Samuel D. Sturgis.
By this time, the Union had won several important battles such as in Gettysburg and Chattanooga. In fact, the reason that the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads occurred was that Sturgis had been sent there by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman. This was a distraction tactic, aimed at diverting Forrest, a fierce cavalryman, whilst Sherman carried out his “March to the Sea.” The manoeuvre was successful and Forrest’s forces were met at Brice's Crossroads with Sturgis’ army.
Despite being outnumbered, the Confederates were victorious. However, this victory brought with it few gains and only succeeded in slowing down the Union incursion into the south.
Today, Brice's Crossroads Battlefield is a National Park managed by the Natchez Trace Parkway. There are no visitor facilities at the site, but the nearby Brice's Crossroads Visitor and Interpretive Center offers an insight into the battle.
Chancellorsville Battlefield was the site of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s “greatest victory” in 1863 during the American Civil War.
Chancellorsville Battlefield in Virginia was the site of a major Confederate victory during the American Civil War and part of the wider Chancellorsville Campaign, an attempt by the Unionists to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond.
Fought between 30 April and 6 May 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville saw the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee defeat Major General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac despite all the odds being stacked in favour of the Unionists. Lee’s army was not only half the size of Hooker’s but was also in a state of disarray when the Chancellorsville Campaign began.
Yet, with the help of a risky plan by General Lee combined with Unionist miscommunication, badly managed Unionist corps and Hooker’s inexperience in command, the Confederates achieved victory. However, with over a quarter of Lee’s forces killed or wounded in the battle and the loss of his most important generals, including Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, this was something of a pyrrhic victory.
Today, visitors can explore Chancellorsville Battlefield within the wider remit of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Chancellorsville Battlefield offers numerous tours ranging from driving and walking tours to audio and virtual tours.
There is also a twenty minute video at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center as well as exhibitions and literature. The site also has a monument to Stonewall Jackson.
The Chickamauga Battlefield was the scene of the Confederates’ last major victory in the American Civil War.
Chickamauga Battlefield forms part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and is a major landmark in US history.
In the fall of 1863, General William S. Rosecrans' Union army fought General Braxton Bragg's Confederates for control of Chattanooga, a key rail centre and what was considered the gateway to the South. Nearby Chickamauga became the scene of the first battle for Chattanooga and in which the Confederates emerged victorious.
In fact, this was the last major victory for the South in the Civil War.
The 5,500 acre Chickamauga Battlefield is filled with historical tablets and monuments related to the American Civil War. Visitors can tour Chickamauga Battlefield by a seven-mile self-guiding auto tour as well while hiking and horse trails are also available.
Military enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center to see the Fuller Gun Collection with over 300 examples of military long arms.
Cold Harbor was the site of one of General Robert E. Lee’s final victories in the American Civil War.
The Battle of Cold Harbor was part of the overland campaign of 1864 during the American Civil War.
It was here in Cold Harbor that, between 31 May and 12 June 1864, the Army of the Potomac led by Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant battled General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
With over 12,000 casualties to the Union army, the battle of Cold Harbor would be one of Lee’s final victories, prompting Grant to change his strategy.
Cold Harbor now forms part of Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia where visitors can find a myriad of Civil War related sites, tours and exhibits. Walking tours of Cold Harbor ranging from one to three miles start at the Visitors Centre in Mechanicsville which also houses a series of exhibits such as an electric map program for Cold Harbor and Gaines Mill.
One of the lesser known Civil War places, the Ellwood Plantation is the site of General Stonewall Jackson’s arm which was buried there after he was wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
The Ellwood Plantation (Ellwood Cemetery) is the site of General Stonewall Jackson's arm, which was buried there after he was wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
After being accidentally shot in darkness by fellow Confederates, Jackson's doctor Hunter Macguire amputated his left arm. It was placed in a grave in the Ellwood family cemetery and remains there to this day.
Jackson died a few days later from complications resulting from his wounds. He is buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.
Ford Theatre was the site where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
It was in Ford Theatre on the night of 14 April 1865 that well-known actor John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln.
A Confederate sympathiser and spy, Booth had originally planned to kidnap Lincoln, but instead shot the President in the back of the head as he watched Ford Theatre’s production of “Our American Cousin” from the state box (box seven). President Lincoln was the first American President to be assassinated.
Ford Theatre is now an operating theatre house as well as a museum showcasing a variety of historical artifacts related to Lincoln’s presidency, his assassination and his life in Washington. Ford Theatre also stands across the street from Petersen House, where the President was taken following the shooting and where he subsequently died.
Fort Clinch in Florida is a nineteenth century fort which changed hands several times during the Civil War.
Fort Clinch on Amelia Island in Florida is a fort built in 1847 as part of the Third System defence plan. The Third System was a plan instigated by the US government following the War of 1812 to improve the country’s coastal defences and, with its pentagonal shape and brick structure, Fort Clinch is a typical example of the fortifications constructed under this plan.
A Union base used to establish control of the coasts of Florida and Georgia during the American Civil War, Fort Clinch was occupied by Confederates for a short period and later recaptured by the Union. It was also later used during the Spanish-American War, only to be abandoned.
Today, Fort Clinch is part of the Florida State Parks network, allowing visitors to view the original building. Park rangers are on site to provide an insight into the building.
Fort Donelson Battlefield was the scene of a major Union victory in the American Civil War.
Fort Donelson Battlefield was the site of a fierce and pivotal battle fought from 11 to 16 February 1862 as part of the American Civil War. The two parties involved were the Unionists commanded by the then Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and the Confederates, led by Brigadier General John B. Floyd.
The Battle of Fort Donelson was preceded by the capture of Fort Henry in western Tennessee by Grant a few days earlier. Viewing this victory as a chance to invade the South, Grant moved his forces towards Fort Donelson on 12 February.
After a number of probing attacks and a naval gunship battle won by the Confederates, the Unionists started gaining momentum, due in large part to the reinforcements amassed by Grant.
By 16 February, the Confederates had suffered major losses and Confederate Brigadier General Buckner asked Grant for terms to end the fighting. Grant’s now famous response was “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." And thus Buckner surrendered.
The Battle of Fort Donelson marked a significant win for the Unionists, breaking the South and forcing the Confederates to relinquish southern Kentucky as well as much of West and Middle Tennessee.
Grant was promoted to the rank of major general and nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender" Grant. His army would later be known as the Army of Tennessee.
Visiting Fort Donelson
Visitors to Fort Donelson Battlefield can learn more about the battle, its participants and its effects though a six mile self-guided tour as well as visiting the Fort Donelson cemetery.
It’s best to start at the Fort Donelson Battlefield visitor centre, which houses a number of exhibits and offers a short introductory film, giving an insight into the battle and a starting off point from which to plan your day.
Fort Gaines was a fortification used in the American Civil War.
Fort Gaines is a nineteenth century fortification on Dauphin Island, Alabama.
The island itself has a rich history, having been a French, British and Spanish colony and once having been called “Massacre Island” due to the large number of remains found there by a sixteenth century French explorer. It came under American control in 1813.
Construction of Fort Gaines began in 1821, as part of the Third System plan to shore up the country’s seacoast defences. The fort was plagued with problems, not least that it was often flooded. Thus, Fort Gaines was later rebuilt between 1853 and 1862, the latter part of the work done by Confederate soldiers due to the breakout of the American Civil War.
During the Civil War, Fort Gaines played an important role in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Fort Gaines went on to have roles in the Spanish-American War and as a base during the First and Second World Wars.
Today, Fort Gaines is under the remit of the Dauphin Island Park and Beach Board.
Fort Hamilton is a Third System Fort, a US military base and home to the Harbor Defense Museum.
Fort Hamilton is a US military base in New York built between 1825 and 1831 as part of the city’s Third System defences. The Third System forts were coastal defences built in the US following the War of 1812.
Even before its construction, the site on which Fort Hamilton was built had already proven a vital strategic point. It was here that, on 4 July 1776, American forces attempted, but ultimately failed, to stop British forces from bringing in ships to quell the American Revolutionary War. Then, in the War of 1812, this was where American forces repelled British ships from docking.
As a garrisoned post, Fort Hamilton hosted some of the most famous figures in US history, including Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. It would go on to become a Union fortification in the American Civil War and an embarkation site in both world wars.
Today, Fort Hamilton is an active military base as well as housing New York’s only military museum, the Harbor Defense Museum. At this museum, visitors can see a range of historic weaponry, uniforms and exhibits such as about the Battle of Brooklyn.
It’s worth noting that Fort Hamilton was only named as such in the twentieth century, its namesake being Secretary of the Treasury from 1789 to 1795, Alexander Hamilton.
Fort Macon is a nineteenth century fort which was captured by the Union in 1862 during the American Civil War.
Fort Macon in Carteret County, North Carolina was one of a series of forts originally built to protect the state’s main deep ocean port, known as the Beaufort Inlet.
The perceived threat was from countries such as Spain and Britain, who had both invaded the port in the eighteenth century. Whilst several attempts had been made before Fort Macon, they had been incomplete or unsuccessful.
In fact, Fort Macon was built in the aftermath of the War of 1812, as part of the Third System plan to protect America’s seacoasts. A sturdy five sided structure of brick and stone, construction of Fort Macon began in 1826 and, by 1834, the fortification was garrisoned.
However, the first major battle at Fort Macon was not with another country, but during the American Civil War. Initially seized by Confederate forces, Fort Macon was later recaptured by the Union in the Battle of Fort Macon, which occurred between 23 March and 26 April 1862. By this time, the fort was unable to withstand the new developments in weaponry, something which had blighted all Third System structures.
Fort Macon was later used as a base in World War Two. Today, it is part of a state park, in which visitors can tour the fort.
Fort McHenry was the site of a siege during the War of 1812 and the inspiration for the American National Anthem.
Fort McHenry in Baltimore was originally constructed as a defensive structure between 1799 and 1802. It was named after James McHenry, the Secretary of War from 1796 to 1800. However it was in the War of 1812 that this five pointed star shaped brick building served its most famous role.
The War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a conflict between the US and Great Britain which lasted to 1815. It was partially ignited by the fact that the British, who were at war with France, had instigated blockades against the French which had hit American merchant ships.
From 13 to 14 September 1814, the British attacked Fort McHenry. Over 1,000 American soldiers defended Fort McHenry, managing to repel the British. This clash, known as the Battle of Baltimore, was the inspiration for the words of the “Star Spangled Banner”, written by observer, Sir Francis Scott Key. This song would become the American National Anthem.
Civil War Prison
Fort McHenry was also at the centre of controversy in the American Civil War when it was the site of imprisonment of John Merryman. Merryman, who was accused of burning bridges in Baltimore to impede Union soldiers, was held at Fort McHenry without the right to legal counsel and without being charged. This was against the constitutional right of Habeas Corpus – generally the right to either be charged with a crime or to be released. However, at that time, President Lincoln had suspended this right as an emergency measure in light of the war and refused to release Merryman.
Today, Fort McHenry is a national historic site. Visitors to Fort McHenry can learn about its history and tour the fort as well as viewing a film about the structure. A trip to Fort McHenry usually lasts around two hours, an hour of which is spent touring the building itself. Tours are self-guided.
Fort Pickens is an historic US military fort in Pensacola, Florida, named after Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens. It forms part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a site overseen by the National Park Service.
Fort Pickens is an historic US military fort in Pensacola, Florida, named after Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens.
Begun in 1829, Fort Pickens was a Third System Fort intended to protect Pensacola Harbor, a role which it fulfilled together with Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee as well as the Navy Yard. In fact, when it was completed in 1834, Fort Pickens was the largest of the forts built for this purpose and it remained in use until 1947.
Over the course of its existence, Fort Pickens has seen a range of action, both military and otherwise, including in the Civil War. Indeed Pickens was one of just four southern forts to have evaded capture by the Confederates.
In 1886, Fort Pickens took on a new role as a prison for Apaches including Geronimo, the famous Apache Indian, was a prisoner there until 1888.
Today, Fort Pickens forms part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a site overseen by the National Park Service.
Fort Pulaski is a nineteenth century fortification and the site of an important military test during the American Civil War.
Fort Pulaski in Georgia is a nineteenth century hexagonal brick fortification built between 1829 and 1847 as part of the Third System plan, although it would play a significant role in undermining this plan. The Third System was a defence system established following the War of 1812 to protect America’s seacoasts.
American Civil War
Ironically, the first threat to Fort Pulaski was not from overseas forces, but during the American Civil War. Under Confederate control from 1861 when Georgia seceded from the Union, Fort Pulaski was later largely abandoned by the Confederate army due to its isolated position. This left it open to Union attack and, after a long campaign of establishing batteries along the Tybee River, the Union Army demanded the surrender of the fort on 10 April 1862. The Confederates refused.
Changing American Military Architecture
Thus a battle ensued for Fort Pulaski and one which would change the way in which America built its defensive forces. The decisive element of the battle for Fort Pulaski was the use of a new weapon, the rifled cannon, by Union Captain Quincy A. Gilmore. Within 30 hours, the canon had breached the walls of Fort Pulaski and, on 11 April 1862, Confederate forces surrendered the site to the Union.
In fact, this was a pivotal moment in US military history. The fact that this weapon was able to penetrate Fort Pulaski at such a long distance rendered the fort obsolete and meant that never again did the American use brick defensive forts like it.
Civil War Prison
In 1864, Fort Pulaski also became the home, or rather the prison, of the Immortal Six Hundred, a group made up of 600 Confederate Prisoners of War. These imprisoned troops stayed in Fort Pulaski until March 1865, when those who had survived its dire conditions were transferred to Fort Delaware. Thirteen Confederate POW’s who died at the fort are buried near the fort on Cockspur Island.
Today, Fort Pulaski is part of the National Parks network, where visitors can explore the incredible architecture and gain an insight into this aspect of the American Civil War.
Fort Raleigh in North Carolina was the site of the famous English “lost colony” of Roanoke.
Fort Raleigh is a National Historic Park located on Roanoke Island in North Carolina, the site of an English colony which was famously “lost”.
The "Lost" Colony
First established between 1584 and 1590, the English colony was a first attempt by the English to colonise the “New World”, a campaign spearheaded by Sir Walter Raleigh. However, this community of 116 people effectively ‘disappeared’, never to be heard from again. The fate of these men, women and children has never been revealed, remaining a mystery. A film about this historic event can be viewed at the visitor centre.
The actual “fort” at Fort Raleigh, which is made up of earthworks, is a remnant of English colonisation and several sixteenth century items have been discovered there. Visitors can view this fort and learn more about its history. It is also worth noting that the first successful, permanent English colony was not established until 1607 - this can be viewed at Colonial National Park, Virginia.
Beyond the spectre of Fort Raleigh’s colonial past, the site boasts a wealth of history, including that of Native Americans. Visitors to Fort Raleigh can explore the culture of the Native Americans who lived there.
American Civil War
In the American Civil War, Fort Raleigh was the site of a modest battle known as the Battle of Roanoke Island, in which the Union captured the island from the Confederates in February 1862. Whilst this battle was relatively small, it did add to the momentum of the Union efforts.
Furthermore, following the battle, Fort Raleigh became the site of a “Freedmen’s Colony”, an experimental plan whereby African Americans were settled on the island. The community established at Roanoke thrived, but at the end of the war, the land was returned to its original owners.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Park offers a range of activities for adults and children to learn about its history.
One of the best known Civil War sites, Fort Sumter was the place where the American Civil War officially began on 12 April 1861.
Fort Sumter in South Carolina was originally built in the nineteenth century as part of the “Third System” plan to defend the coasts of America following the War of 1812 against the British. In fact, it would go on to become the site of the ignition of the American Civil War.
Build Up to the War
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States in 1860, southern states began seceding from the Union, declaring a separate Confederate States of America. Whilst there were many reasons for the build up to this north-south conflict, the main issue was Lincoln’s opposition to slavery and in particular to legislation such as the Federal Fugitive Slave Act.
South Carolina declared its secession on 20 December 1860. Despite this, Fort Sumter was originally held by the Union under the command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson had moved his forces from the nearby Fort Moultrie to the previously sparsely defended Fort Sumter six days after the secession. This was seen as a hostile act by the Confederates.
Tensions mounted over this move, resulting in a siege of Fort Sumter by the Confederates against the Union. Supplies at Fort Sumter began running low and, despite negotiations, an agreement failed to be reached.
The War Begins
On the morning of 12 April 1861, the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, signaling the start of the American Civil War. Following 34 hours of bombardment, the Union surrendered Fort Sumter. They would not recapture it for a further four years.
Today, Fort Sumter is open to the public as part of the National Parks network. Visitors can hear a ten minute ranger talk about the site before embarking on a self-guided tour.
Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida is a nineteenth century Third System fortification.
Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida was originally constructed following the War of 1812, in a plan known as the Third System in order to defend America’s coasts.
Its construction began in 1845 and was completed in 1866, although further changes were made to Fort Taylor during the Spanish-American Wars. Its namesake is US President Zachary Taylor.
Fort Taylor was not the site of any significant battles in the American Civil War and was under Union control.
Today, Fort Taylor is part of a Florida State Park, with ranger guided tours of the fort available daily at noon and 2:00pm.
Fort Warren on George’s Island in Boston was a fortification built during the American Civil War.
Fort Warren on George’s Island in Boston was built by the Union during the American Civil War as a defensive structure. It was one of the ‘Third System’ plan forts intended to defend the seacoast.
Fort Warren is an impressive granite building which was completed in 1861. Unfortunately, by this time, the fortifications of Fort Warren were obsolete, rendering it useless for its intended purpose. As such, Fort Warren went on to become a prison for Confederate prisoners of war as well as a training facility. It was finally decommissioned in 1947. Today, Fort Warren is part of Boston Harbour Islands National Park, which offers guided tours of the site.
Fortress Rosecrans was built by Unionist solders in 1863 following the Battle of Stones River.
Fortress Rosecrans was a fortified structure built by the Army of the Cumberland following the Battle of Stones River in 1863. It was named after General William S. Rosecrans, who led the men during this battle. Fortress Rosecrans went on to become a vital base through which the Union army passed supplies in their campaign to capture nearby Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Today, little is left of this site, but it can be viewed as part of a trip to Stones River Battlefield.
Fredericksburg Battlefield is an important site of the American Civil War, where the Confederates defeated the Unionists in a fierce battle in 1862.
Fredericksburg Battlefield in Virginia was the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg, a major clash between the Unionists led by General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia led by General Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War. It took place between 11 and 15 December 1862 near the heart of the Confederate capital in Richmond.
Burnside, who had been newly appointed to replace General McClellan, had planned to launch a surprise attack on the Confederates, but was severely compromised by a series of administrative errors. Most heinous of these was the slow arrival of floating bridges which the Union troops needed in order to cross the Rappahannock River. The delay in receiving those bridges lost the Union Army of the Potomac its element of surprise and allowed the Confederates plenty of time to amass their troops in the area.
The result was a series of frantic attempts by the Unionists to regain their advantage. Several attempts were made to cross the river and gain ground, but each was deflected by the Confederates. Both sides fought fiercely, but in the end the Battle of Fredericksburg resulted in a decisive Confederate victory, with 12,653 Union casualties to 5,377 Confederate casualties.
Visitors to Fredericksburg Battlefield are presented with an incredible number of tours including walking, guided, driving, audio and even virtual tours. From the Sunken Road, which acted as a natural trench and the original stone wall to Telegraph Hill or “Lee Hill” and its many monuments, Fredericksburg Battlefield offers an in-depth insight into both the battle itself and the war as a whole.
As part of the larger Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg Battlefield is surrounded by history. Those planning to visit Fredericksburg Battlefield can expect to spend at least half a day there. The audio tour alone lasts three hours. Having said this, the official National Parks website has suggestions for shorter and longer trips and the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Centre does offer a good overview of the battle.
It is also worth noting that visitors can learn about the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, which took place in Marye's Heights on 3 May 1863 as part of the Chancellorsville Campaign.
The General Grant National Memorial in New York is the tomb of Ulysses S. Grant.
The General Grant National Memorial, more commonly known as Grant’s Tomb, in New York is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant was the eighteenth President of the United States, first elected in 1868 and again in 1872. A fierce military leader, Grant led the Union forces to victory in Civil War battles such as Vicksburg and Chattanooga before claiming the ultimate victory – the surrender of Confederate forces – at Appomattox in 1865. In fact, Grant was already a veteran by the time he served in the American Civil War, having also served in the Mexican Wars.
Grant’s Tomb is a vast peak-domed complex in New York in which visitors can see this famous general’s tomb and learn more about his life and achievements. In fact, it is North America’s largest tomb.
Visitors to the General Grant National Memorial can embark on self-guided tours and there are also free public tours hourly from 11am to 3pm.
The most famous of all Civil War sites, this was the scene of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the fiercest and most important battles in the American Civil War.
Gettysburg National Military Park in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is brimming with approximately 1,328 monuments, markers and memorials relating to the American Civil War.
In fact, Gettysburg was just a small town until the summer of 1863, when it became the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in the war between General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Army and General George Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac.
The Battle of Gettysburg raged from 1 to 3 July 1863, resulting in over 51,000 casualties and victory for Meade and the Unionists. It marked a significant turning point in the war, followed twenty one months later by Lee’s surrender.
Visitors can follow the route of Battle of Gettysburg, from Seminary Ridge and Culp's Hill to Cemetery Ridge and Devils Den as well as visiting David Wills' house, a museum about the town.
The National Park Service Museum and Visitor Center is a good place to start as it contains a wide range of Civil War related information as well as a plethora of guided tours and exhibitions. The Soldiers’ National Cemetery also offers a draw, being the location of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. This site features as one of our Top Ten US tourist Attractions.
Historic Jamestowne was the location of the first successful English colony in America in 1607 and was a key strategic location during the Civil War.
It was in Historic Jamestowne in 1607 that the English established their first successful colony in America. Previous attempts, notably that of Roanoke in 1587, had been made, but the colony the English formed in Historic Jamestowne was the root of what was to eventually become America.
Due to its strategic location, Jamestown was also vitally important during the American Revolution and the American Civil War.
Today, Historic Jamestowne forms part of Colonial National Park, a historic site which encompasses York Town Battlefield, Colonial Parkway and the Cape Henry Memorial. Through guided ranger tours, hikes, exhibits and self-guided tours, visitors can explore the place’s history and that of the country as a whole.
Amongst its many attractions, it is worth seeing the Jamestown Glasshouse, a recreation of the first industrial building of the Virginia Company, the London-based company that founded the colony. This site features as one of our Top 10 US tourist attractions.
Guinea Station, the lone white building where General Thomas ’Stonewall’ Jackson died.
After being wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Stonewall Jackson was taken to the Chandler Plantation in Virginia and placed in an outbuilding.
His arm was amputated and he developed pneumonia. After his wife and baby arrived, he passed away on a Sunday afternoon in one of the small plantation buildings.
He is buried in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia.
The Lincoln Memorial is a Greek temple style monument honouring the 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln.
The Lincoln Memorial is a Greek style monument in Washington DC’s West Potomac Park.
The Lincoln Memorial was built to honour President Abraham Lincoln, who was the sixteenth President of the United States of America, serving during the American Civil War, a fact that is commemorated above the giant statue of Lincoln inside the memorial with the words “In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”.
President Lincoln was assassinated by a actor and Confederate spy, John Wilkes Booth, at Ford Theatre on 14 April 1865.
Whilst a committee for the establishment of a memorial to Abraham Lincoln was first incorporated in 1867, authorisation for the monument was not given until 1911 and construction only began on 12 February 1914. The build was also a lengthy process and Lincoln Memorial was finally dedicated on 30 May 1922.
The Lincoln Memorial was designed by the architect, Henry Bacon, who also sculpted the statue of Lincoln which visitors can see within its walls.
As the site of many important political speeches and events, Lincoln Memorial has a history of its own, independent from its original purpose. In particular, it was the site where Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech on 28 August 1963.
Lincoln Memorial stands majestically in National Mall and Memorial Parks, overseen by the National Parks Service and surrounded by other important historical sites. Visitors are free to enter the memorial at all times and it can often become quite crowded.
Lincoln Tomb is the burial place of President Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Illinois, is the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States of America.
Abraham Lincoln, born 12 April 1809, was the country’s first Republican president and led the Union during the American Civil War. His Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 resulted in the abolition of slavery. His term as president ran from March 1861 until 14 April 1865, when he died after being shot at Ford Theatre.
Abraham Lincoln is buried at Lincoln Tomb, which is now also the resting place of his wife and three of his four sons. Visitors to Lincoln Tomb can enter the 117-foot brick and granite structure and learn about Lincoln through his own speeches, which are displayed throughout.
Lookout Mountain Battlefield was the scene of a pivotal battle in the Chattanooga campaign in the American Civil War.
Lookout Mountain Battlefield is the site where General Ulysses S. Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederate forces of General Braxton Bragg in what some know as the “Battle in the Clouds”. This battle formed part of the campaign to control nearby Chattanooga, considered to be the gateway to the South.
The Lookout Mountain Battle followed the Battle of Chickamauga, which the Confederates had won and this latest victory was essential to secure Union control of the South. Lookout Mountain Battlefield forms part of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which is brimming with monuments as well historical trails and markers. And, of course, the views are great.
It is also well worth seeing James Walker’s painting, aptly called “Battle of Lookout Mountain”. You can find this as well as other exhibits at the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Centre.
The Museum of the Confederacy chronicles the history of the seceded states under the Confederate government.
The Museum of the Confederacy chronicles the history of the seceded states under the Confederate government and tells the story of the Confederate army during the Civil War.
From photographs and manuscripts to items belonging to Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson and other artefacts, the Museum of the Confederacy offers a comprehensive insight into life in the Confederate States.
Beyond its three levels of galleries, the Museum of the Confederacy also has one exhibit of special interest - the original White House of the Confederacy. The official seat of President Jefferson Davis during the Confederacy, this neoclassical building, which forms part of the museum complex, has been restored and can be toured.
Natchez in Mississippi contains a number of historic sites and places of note including a native Indian village and historic houses and churches.
Natchez is an historic town in Mississippi which contains a number of interesting historic sites and locations.
Sites to visit include a Natchez Indian village, Jefferson College and the Natchez Museum of African American Heritage. Another site to visit in the surrounding area is the Emerald Mound.
Natchez also boasts a number of historic churches and historic homes.
The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier explores the experiences of those who fought in the American Civil War.
The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Virginia explores the experiences of those who fought in the American Civil War.
In its main exhibit, "Duty Called Me Here", the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier offers an audio guided tour of artefacts, multimedia presentations and dioramas which aim to tell the story of what it was like to be a Civil War soldier. Within the exhibit is a battlefield simulation.
The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier also commemorates those who fought by way of its Remembrance Wall, with the names of all those who answered the call of duty. A visit usually lasts around 45 minutes.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park was the site of an American Civil War battle on 20 February 1864 won by the Confederates.
On 20 February 1864 at Olustee Battlefield, Union and Confederate troops clashed for five hours in what became Florida’s largest battle during the American Civil War. Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park now stands in commemoration of that historic battle and its 2,807 casualties.
It was the Confederates led by Brigadier General Joseph Finegan who emerged victorious, managing to break the line of the Union army led by Brigadier General Truman Seymour. In fact, the Battle of Olustee marked the Union army’s final incursion into the area until the war’s end a mere fourteen months later.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park has a mile-long nature trail with markings and signposts about the battle as well as an Interpretive Centre with exhibits and artifacts relating to the event. Visitors to Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park can start their day at the park’s visitor centre, which has information about the site and activities.
Petersen House was the site where President Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 after being shot across the street at Ford Theatre.
Petersen House was the boarding house where President Abraham Lincoln was taken after being shot across the road at Ford Theatre on the night of 14 April 1865. The President died the morning after arriving at Peterson House.
The Peterson House Museum offers its visitors a brief tour including the room where Lincoln died as well as viewing various historical artefacts relating to his assassination.
Visitors to Peterson House can also tour Ford Theatre, the scene of Lincoln’s assassination.
Port Hudson was the site of a lengthy siege during the American Civil War.
In 1863, the town of Port Hudson in Louisiana was the site of a forty-eight day siege by the Union against the Confederates.
The Confederates viewed Port Hudson as a strategic position from which to defend the Mississippi, particularly as it was located in an acute bend in the river. Thus, they established batteries there to repel the Union army.
Beginning on 23 May 1863, the Union commenced a siege against the Confederates – the Siege of Port Hudson. Following the Union victory at Vicksburg, the Confederates realised that their actions were now largely futile and surrendered Port Hudson on 9 July 1863.
Today, Port Hudson is a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can tour the site, including via guided tours or a 6-mile hiking trail as well as viewing “living history” demonstrations.
Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia was a focal point of the American Civil War and the capital of the Confederacy.
Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia is a collection of several historic battlefields, representing some of the fiercest fighting in the American Civil War, including the Seven Days’ Battles.
Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, meaning that, between 1861 and 1865 Richmond and its surroundings were at the centre of a bloody tug of war between the Union and Confederate armies.
Richmond National Battlefield Park spans 1900 acres of Civil War sites, including famous battle sites such as Cold Harbor, Drewry’s Bluff and Gaines Mill, as well as the Chimborazo Medical Museum, which commemorates the work done at Chimborazo Hospital. This was one of the largest hospitals of its time, treating over 76,000 Confederates during the war.
With such an array of Civil War sites, it is worth starting your visit to Richmond National Battlefield Park at the Civil War Visitor Center at the Tredegar Iron Works. Not only is this the place to find park ranger guided tours of the battlefields, but the centre also includes an expansive military exhibit.
Shiloh Battlefield was the site of the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing which took place in April 1862.
Shiloh Battlefield in Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee and Mississippi was the site of a Union victory in April 1862 during the American Civil War.
Known as the Battle of Shiloh and also as the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing, this clash saw the Confederates, led by General Albert Sidney Johnston mount an initially successful surprise attack on the Union army of Major General Ulysses S. Grant, only to be defeated the next day. Johnston was killed during the battle.
The Battle of Shiloh, which raged from 6 to 7 April 1862, was an attempt by both sides to secure strategic crossroads in the area, resulting in a total of 23,746 casualties.
Today, Shiloh Battlefield is part of the National Parks network and offers visitors a range of tours and exhibits to explore the area’s history.
In addition to viewing Shiloh Battlefield itself, visitors can see Shiloh National Cemetery and the Corinth Interpretative Centre. Corinth was also a crucial strategic point in the American Civil War, often known as the “linchpin” of Union control over the area. Several attempts would be made by the Confederates to seize Corinth, but the Union Army successfully defended their base.
Stones River Battlefield was the site of a fierce clash during the American Civil War which proved vital for the Union.
Between 31 December 1862 and 2 January 1863, Stones River Battlefield in Murfreesboro was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War.
Prior to the Battle of Stones River, the Union had suffered a humiliating defeat at Fredericksburg. Morale was at an all time low and, anxious for a military victory, President Abraham Lincoln urged his new military leader, Major General William S. Rosecrans, to deliver.
In December 1862, Rosecrans moved his troops to Murfreesboro where General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee were camped. In the days that followed, there raged a fierce battle and, by the end, resulted in 9,239 Confederate casualties and 9,532 Union casualties as well as thousands of men taken as prisoners on both sides.
Overall, the Battle of Stones River is considered to have been inconclusive, however of vital importance was the fact that Bragg retreated from the battlefield. As a result, the Confederates gave up Middle Tennessee, an area of farmland which acted as a food source and, in Lincoln’s words, led the Union to view the Battle of Stones River as a “hard earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the country scarcely could have lived over.”
Today, Stones River Battlefield is part of the US National Parks network, with exhibitions and a series of tours exploring the area’s history. Stones River National Cemetery, which is nearby, is a military graveyard where 6,100 Union soldiers are buried.
On average, a tour of Stones River Battlefield and its museum lasts around two hours. Having said this, you might want more time to visit nearby attractions, such as Fortress Rosecrans.
Grave of Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson.
The Stonewall Jackson Grave is the site of the grave of General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson.
Located in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia, Jackson is buried (minus his arm) along with members of his family.
'Stonewall' Jackson died from complications after he was wounded in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Visitors sometimes leave flowers and even lemons at the grave site as he liked to suck on them before going into battle.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum explores the life of the 16th US president and his legacy, all in the context of wider US history.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Illinois explores the life of the 16th US president and his legacy, all in the context of wider US history.
From detailed recreations of the places where major events in his life took place - the White House, his boyhood home - to genuine personal possessions, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum has a range of exhibits about Lincoln.
The Charleston Museum chronicles the history of Charleston and the coastal region of South Carolina.
The Charleston Museum chronicles the history of Charleston and the coastal region of South Carolina.
Exhibits include a history of South Carolina’s Lowcountry from the time of early natives, a collection of weapons from the 1750s onwards and the story of Charleston during the American Civil War. There is also a natural history exhibition as well as some more eclectic pieces such as an ancient Egyptian collection which includes a mummy.
It’s worth noting that the Charleston Museum has an interesting history of its own. Having been founded in 1773, it is said to be the oldest museum in the country.
The Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth holds an array of exhibits relating to the American Civil War.
The Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth explores the American Civil War, and the role of Texas within it, through a range of exhibits.
Amongst the artefacts on displays, there is a large collection of weaponry, flags and clothing, including army uniforms from the war.
The US Capitol is the seat of the United States Congress and an iconic building in its own right.
The US Capitol is the seat of the United States Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and, with its famous neoclassical facade and dramatic dome, is an iconic building in its own right.
Construction of the first incarnation of The US Capitol began in 1793 and the US Congress first met there - in what would be its north wing - in November 1800. Since then, The US Capitol has been the setting for many important national events such as presidential inaugurations.
Over the centuries, The US Capitol has undergone a series of renovations and additions - especially in the 1850s - as well as reconstructions and restorations. One such reconstruction occurred after the British set alight the US Capitol on 24 August 1814 as part of the War of 1812.
Today, The US Capitol is both the home of the US legislature and a museum of American history and art. Free tours of the Capitol building itself are available, but must be booked in advance, and there is also a new visitor centre with exhibits about the US Capitol and its history.
Vicksburg Battlefield in Mississippi was the site of a pivotal Union victory during the American Civil War.
Vicksburg Battlefield was the site of one of the most important Union victories of the American Civil War and, together with the Battle of Gettysburg, marked a pivotal moment during the conflict.
With its strategically vital location near the Mississippi River, wealth of resources, access to Richmond and ability to split the south, President Abraham Lincoln considered Vicksburg to be “the key” to winning the war. Thus, Lincoln launched the Vicksburg Campaign to seize the town from the Confederates and, in 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant led the Union Army of the Tennessee towards the fateful battlefield.
Vicksburg was heavily defended and, only after two failed attempts on 19 and 22 May 1863, did Grant’s Union army manage to penetrate them. Grant changed his tactics from those of force to instigating a siege, cutting the Confederate troops at Vicksburg off from their communication and supply routes and preparing the way for an attack.
Then, from May 26, the Federal troops undertook a campaign to undermine the Confederate defences by tunnelling underneath them and destroying them with explosives. Two mines were indeed detonated in June together with several clashes and ongoing gunfire.
Finally, on 3 July, Confederate General Pemberton rode to meet Grant, displaying white flags. Initially unable to agree terms, the final Confederate surrender was signed the next day on 4 July 1863. The Union had gained their key to the South.
Today, Vicksburg Battlefield is a National Historic Park, which houses over a thousand monuments commemorating the siege of Vicksburg and its surrounding events together with a restored Federal navy boat, the USS Cairo, with its accompanying museum and a National Cemetery.
There are various activities at Vicksburg Battlefield, including an in-car tour of the site and a visitor centre with several exhibits. Nearby are related sites including the batteries at Louisiana Circle and Navy Circle as well as South Fort.
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield was the site of a major battle which defined Missouri’s role in the American Civil War.
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield was the site of the second major battle of the American Civil War. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, took place in Springfield, Missouri on 10 August 1861 and was the first such conflict to take place west of the Mississippi River.
At Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, the Union Army of the West, led by Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was defeated by Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch’s Confederate troops. However, despite this victory, Missouri continued to be under Union control.
Today, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield is a US National Park, including a Civil War Museum and self-guided tours of the site. Overall, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield is very well preserved, offering a good insight into the battle.
Yorktown Battlefield is the site of the final major battle of the American Revolution.
Yorktown battlefield in Virginia is the location of the final battle of the American Revolution.
It was at Yorktown battlefield that, on 19 October 1781, the British surrendered to the combined forces of the French and American armies, under the command of General Washington. This dramatic action marked the end of the war and was the point at which the Americans attained independence.
Today, Yorktown battlefield forms part of Colonial National Park which encompasses Historic Jamestown, Colonial Parkway and the Cape Henry Memorial. Visitors to Yorktown Battlefield can learn about the history of the site and the end of the American Revolution with tours and exhibitions including visiting Moore House, where the terms of surrender were agreed. Aspects of the site also relate to the American Civil War.